Service Dogs is a non-profit organization located
in St. Paul, MN, dedicated to providing service
dogs for adults and children with psychiatric and
developmental disabilities so they may benefit
from the loyalty, friendship, and independence
their Service Dogs provide.
situation is different, so Pawsitivity
individually selects and trains each dog
specifically for the needs and circumstances of
the person with a disability, to encourage
independence, mobility, and a loving, therapeutic
of all, what is a Service Dog?
definition is controlled by a federal law named
the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA). The
law was revised on July 6th, 2011, and it
basically states that a Service Dog is
individually trained to perform tasks for people
with disabilities. Service Dogs must pass rigorous
certification tests to ensure that they can go
into work, restaurants, stores, churches,
hospitals and be specifically trained for the
person with a disability.
a Service Dog?
train three types of Service Dogs:
benefits does a Service Dog help with?
In addition to
specific tasks that a Service Dog is trained for,
there's many other intangibles that Service Dogs
help with. While these benefits are not tasks, and
thus aren't covered under the ADA, these extra
benefits are incredibly helpful.
- Having a disability is tough - on the person
and on their family. Whether it is trouble with
speaking or trouble interacting with others, a
Service Dog helps with isolation of the handler.
are usually incredibly curious about Service
Dogs, asking lots of questions, and this
interaction really helps with isolation. In the
case of autism, sometimes the family is a
beneficiary of these interactions, too, because
with a Service Dog, the dog's calming influence
makes family outings possible.
the dog gets one out moving in the community,
too. Whether going to school or work or the
mall, it's really nice when people don't just
see a person as different, but rather, there's
an excuse to talk to them. Once people are
talking, they can make friends.
Focus on the "here-and-now", keeping the handler in
- Even without Major Depression, depression can
still hit simply because it's so difficult to
live with a disability. Getting out and about
with a Service Dog reduces isolation, increases
exercise, and can really help with depression
only can a Service Dog help the handler meet
other people, just having the dog in one's life
means having a friend by one's side, 24 hours a
day. Not only is the Service Dog helping the
handler directly, but also, they're always
there, focusing on their handler, all day and
every day. Some autistic children, for instance,
may not have brothers and sisters and neighbors
to play with. But the child has a dog that needs
them, not just for food and walks, but for
companionship, and it can be incredibly nice to
always have their Service Dog to share
- It's easy to inadvertently turn inward and
focus on one's own problems, spending too much
time obsessing about these negative things.
Having a Service Dog that brings in outside
stimulation can help. A Service Dog needs and
loves the handler, and their affection
continually brings the handler out of their
inward thoughts - this new outward focus helps
keep the handler living in the moment and thus,
happier in their day-to-day life.
How helpful is a Service Dog?
Here's some quotes from studies:
Also, here are the conclusions from a pre-post
study design on the effects of Service Dogs
by Diana H. Rinala, PhD; Natalie Sachs-Ericsson,
PhD; and Karen A. Hart, PhD:
and Blascovich, Journal of the AMA (1996)
conducted the only published randomized
controlled trial assessing the impact of service
dogs and reported "dramatic improvements in many
life areas were found following placement of a
service dog. Areas in which improvements were
observed included self-esteem, internal locus of
control, community integration, and increased
need for paid and unpaid assistance.
Participation in school and work also increased."
- "Their general health had improved since
obtaining a service dog." Lane,
D., McNicholas, J., & Collis, G., 1998,
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 59(1-3),
- In a study by Valentine,
D.P., Kiddoo, M., & LaFleur, B, in
Social Work in Health Care (1993)
of adults with service dogs, participants
reported feeling more independent (90%), having
higher self-esteem (80%), being more content
*80%), and more assertive (80%). Individuals
with service dogs reported positive improvements
in their social functioning, with 100% reporting
"more people approached me" and 87% reporting
"my social interactions have increased".
- "Consistent with the great majority of other
literature on assistance dogs, assessments
across a diverse range of areas confirmed the
positive impact of the the service dogs on the
lives of these individuals."
- "Their (the handlers') positive expectations
were commensurate with their actual experience
once the dog had been placed with them and they
had several months of experience working with
- "Furthermore, participants rated their
satisfaction with their dogs as very high, on
- Life improvement areas improved after
placement of a service dog included "number of
friends, self-esteem, physical fitness, leisure
activities, happiness, assertiveness, job
performance, and acceptance of disability."
Also, "their social approachability had improved
dramatically after the placement of a service
- Using a standardized quantitative measure,
self-esteem indicated significant improvement
from before to after placement of the service
- "Importantly, participants also reported
benefits to their family and caregivers.
Individuals with disabilities often need both
paid and unpaid assistance from caregivers.
Unpaid assistance often comes from family
members, pacing some degree of burden on the
family care-givers. Reduction in the time needed
for care-giving can have a positive impact on
the overall functioning of the family and
positively affect both the individual with a
disability as well as other family members."